Suspected shooter identified in murder-suicide attempt

LAUREL - One man is dead and a second in serious condition after what police are calling an apparent murder-suicide attempt involving a man and his estranged wife's boyfriend.

Anne Arundel County police were called to the 3300 block of Sudlersville South around 10:40 p.m. Wednesday to investigate reports of a shooting.

When officers arrived, they found Howard Richard Popp Jr., 39, of Baltimore dead in the road suffering from gunshot wounds, police said.

Cathy Mendiola, Popp's girlfriend, said the shooting happened right in front of her. 

"I had Howard in my arms and I watched him take his last breath," Cathy said. 

Witnesses at the scene told police the shooter ran to the 300 block of Old Line Avenue. Officers quickly learned the suspect had barricaded himself inside a shed near that road.

The man in the shed, later identified as 39-year-old Robert Babauta Mendiola, didn’t respond when officers tried to talk to him, so a police team forced their way inside the shed where they found him suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Mendiola was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore for treatment of life-threatening injuries. He remained under police guard at shock trauma and has been charged with first- and second-degree murder along with other charges.

Cathy said she and Robert were married for 20 years and had 7 children.

Investigators learned Mendiola and his wife separated in July and she had a final protective order against him, police said. The protective order is in effect until July 2015.

"I felt my life was in danger from him. He used to beat me and I know that if I didn't do it, he would have done something because he came to my work twice, stalking me and he told me that if he can't have me then no one will. But I would have never thought that he would do that to him," Cathy told ABC2.

The Mendiola's oldest son, however, gave a different account of their relationship his the relationship between his mother and father. He said his mother was in constant contact with his father. 
"My dad would have been fine. We would have been out of Maryland if she just stopped texting," Robert Mendiola Jr. said. 

Robert Mendiola lives in the 300 block of Old Line Avenue and had been trying to get back together with his wife, but she was dating Popp, police said.

On Wednesday night Popp and the man’s wife were in a car on Sudlersville South when the Mendiola walked up to the car.

The couple got out and then Mendiola allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Popp several times then threatened to hurt himself, police said.

"It's going to haunt me for the rest of my life. I really don't know how I'm going to end up. I don't," Cathy said. 

The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to call Det. Dan Myers, 410-222-3413.

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